Anatomy of an Award: India to United States in Etihad First Class Apartment

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In May, I booked myself an award in an Etihad A380 First Class Apartment for January 2016. I am looking forward to flying the spacious suite with a couch/bed and separate seat from Abu Dhabi to New York. This post explains how I booked that award.

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Etihad is a partner of American Airlines, and you can book First Class between the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent and North America for 90,000 American Airlines miles one way.

Get both the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, which are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

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Get both cards and meet the $6,000 total spending requirement in the next three months to have over 106,000 American Airlines miles.

Since American Airlines counts all of the Middle East, Egypt, Maldives, and Indian Subcontinent as one region, I decided to start the award in Chennai, India. I’ve never been to India, and Chennai is conveniently close to Sri Lanka, which is in American’s Southeast Asia region (Asia 2). I was planning to use that fact to fly cheaply to Sri Lanka on an American Airlines award, hang out there for a few days, then book a cheap cash or Avios flight from Sri Lanka to Chennai. Now I think I’ll just fly a low cost carrier from wherever I am in Southeast Asia to Chennai a few days before the flight.

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Since American charges the same number of miles no matter where I end in North America, I added New York to Los Angeles for zero extra miles. It will give me a chance to fly American’s three cabin First Class on the route.

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Award Searching

This award is centered on flying Etihad’s A380 in First Class to luxuriate in the onboard suite and to take a shower seven miles above land. For that reason, and because I always suggest starting your award search with the longest segment, I first searched for Etihad A380 First Class award space.

As I explained in Where to Search All 24 American Airlines’ Partners’ Award Space, you search Etihad award space on etihad.com. You need to find award space in the GuestSeat column to be able to book the flight with American Airlines miles. Right now I don’t see any First Class award space on the Etihad A380 between New York and Abu Dhabi in either direction that is bookable with American Airlines miles. (I do see plenty of space on the 777 that operates on the route.)

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We have seen award space in First Class on the route come and go quickly and dramatically a few times. I booked in May when award space was wide open, even though it had been non-existent the week before. You can be sure I’ll cover when award space opens back up between JFK and Abu Dhabi in First Class on the Etihad A380.

Once I had my First Class space, I worked backward to get the space from Chennai to Abu Dhabi. This is classic segment-by-segment searching. On shorter regional routes, the top cabin is Business Class, so that’s what I searched.

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Award space is fantastic in Business Class on Etihad regional flights. I selected the 10 PM departure, which gives me a two hour layover in Abu Dhabi. I noted the date, cabin, and flight number. I ignored the price listed on etihad.com because I was using American Airlines miles, which means paying the American Airlines price.

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Last I searched for award space from New York to Los Angeles in First Class. Award space is often wide open in First Class from New York to Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Remember that you need to find MileSAAver (not AAnytime) award space on American Airlines flights to hook them onto partner flights, and still pay the lowest mileage price.Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 2.18.34 PM

I picked an 11 AM departure to give me another two-hour layover.
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You can confirm that every New York to Los Angeles flight has American’s newest First Class product by clicking “View Seats” and seeing this 1-1 configuration.Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 2.19.25 PM

Award Booking

Next I called American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book. I fed the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of the three flights I wanted to book.

She pieced it together easily and quoted me a price of 90,000 American Airlines miles and $79.

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That sounded pretty good, but I asked her if she had waived the $40 phone fee, since I couldn’t book the award online. That’s American’s new policy.

She hadn’t. Once she removed the phone fee, I paid only $38.55 in taxes plus 90,000 miles for a trip that will fly from Chennai to Los Angeles in two super fancy First Classes, and a solid Business Class.Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 5.22.44 PM

Getting the Miles

Get both the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, which are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

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Get both cards and meet the $6,000 total spending requirement in the next three months to have over 106,000 American Airlines miles.

Bottom Line

I booked myself an incredible award from India to Los Angeles that will let me finally see the world’s second most populous country and finally fly the second commercial First Class with an onboard shower. It is a perfect mix of destination and aspirational products, and it cost me 90,000 American Airlines miles + $39.

You can get both the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, which are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 6.44.51 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-09 at 3.59.13 PM

Get both cards and meet the $6,000 total spending requirement in the next three months to have over 106,000 American Airlines miles.

Unfortunately award space in Etihad First Class on the A380 comes and goes, and right now there is none. But if history is a guide, that is likely to change soon, and I will cover when award space opens back up.


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43 COMMENTS

  1. if the 5.10 PM flight from MAA to AUH opens in biz i think you’re better off changing to that flight (it doesn’t cost anything anyway) for two reasons… first is if there are any delays the schedule will have better padding and second, you will get more time in the F lounge in Abu Dhabi (which should be open by then).
    😉

      • hmmmm… six more hours in India… or 6 more hours at the Etihad first class lounge… not sure why you’re hesitant.
        Plus Abu Dhabi is known to have long immigration lines on arrival… you may not get to see the lounge at all.
        i would def rebook when it becomes available – when will you have a chance to see that lounge again?

  2. Other than original miles required for the appropriate cabin, it doesnt cost anything (change fee) to change flight/cabins?

    • To make a change more than 21 days before departure where you just change a flight time/date and not cabin, carrier, route, or award type, there is no fee on AA awards.

  3. Are you just going to be in Chennai airport or plan to get out and stay for few days in Chennai? As American, you need visa and it is ridiculously expensive. Was told by my colleague, it costs $200.00 per entry or $400,oo for multiple entries, seriously??

  4. Welcome to India Scott ! Not sure if there are others but you have atleast one fan here. So maybe we could have a travel enthusiasts meet up when you are here in Chennai. I live in Bangalore but I can make the trip to Chennai. Let me know and I’ll be happy to help in planning.

    • It holds two people. I think the price is for two people, but I don’t plan on booking it, so I haven’t looked into it too closely.

  5. I thought you can’t transit thru the middle east to get to India using AA mikes unless you pay for two awards

    • Middle East is India as far as American Airlines is concerned. My award flies directly from Middle East/India to USA; it doesn’t connect in a third region.

  6. Hey,
    Are you able to use ba.com to search for awards? I get an error message every time… It’s been like that for a week.
    🙁

  7. 9W probably would have a first class cabin on that route. However, service is meh as compared to EY first (my parents flew them from BOM-AUH 2 months back).

  8. Scott, don’t forget Sri Lankan flies from Colombo to Tiruchirapalli(TRZ) in India I think twice daily. Last I checked they were UL132 and UL134. It is a smaller city for sure but, you will have more of an adventure as a visitor spending some time there and surrounding areas than you would in Madras/Chennai which is another mega Indian metro.

    For a different experience, you can then ride the legendary Indian Railways train from TRZ-MAA, which is very cheap.

  9. I have a trip planned to India on Nov 23 on Etihad in business for only 67,000 mi. On the return on Emerites I’m using enough miles for business but can only get a coach seat from delhi to Abu Dhabi then I get to upgrade to business to SFO. Since I’m using Alaska miles I had to book through them. When I looked on Emerites there are seats available in business but I’m not able to get one through Alaska. Any suggestions?

      • I think I’ve learned that just because seats are available on a flight they may not be available through the airline I book with? I’ll keep checking as I’ll have to pay for an extra bag when I leave delhi if I’m not in business and of course there’s the comfort factor even though it’s not a real long flight.

        • Just because a seat is for sale doesn’t mean an award seat is available. This post explains how to search award seats.

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